Traffic

Highway 55 Widening Slated For Nov. Completion

Posted March 29, 2006

— If you are one of the tens of thousands of RTP commuters who use crowded U.S. 1 North to get to congested I-40, there is some relief in sight. Department of Transportation crews started widening Highway 55 from U.S. 1 to the park four years ago.

The idea is to give RTP commuters another option by widening Highway 55 all the way up to the park. They started working on that option in 2002. After years of negotiating barrels, barriers and backhoes, many drivers sum it up as a nightmare.

Weather, moving utilities, and contractor conflicts have all slowed the work, but DOT engineers now say the end is near. They expect completion by November.

That can't come too soon for businesses like Carpenter Texaco. For nearly a month, the work blocked road access to the store.

“That really hurt me,” said owner Billy Barham. “That knocked out about $2,000 a day in business.”

Even when the project is finished, there's a problem right in the middle. There are no current plans to widen Highway 55 through much of Apex, because of the CSX Railroad crossing in town. Road engineers say there are a number of reasons they can't widen the road there. The crossing is historically unique and preservationists want to save it. Also, CSX Railroad doesn't want to disrupt train traffic, and replacing it would be very expensive.

“That section of Highway 55 through our corporate limits does create a traffic bottleneck, and one that concerns us greatly,” said Apex Town Manager Bruce Radford.

So look forward to November, Highway 55 commuters, but also remember that until there's a new plan, or a lot of new money, there'll be the same old jams through Apex.

The November completion date puts the project six months behind schedule and will cost taxpayers about $60 million.

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